I LOST MY VOICE a couple years ago when Murderati closed its doors. I had been blogging there twice a month since before my first novel was published, and had racked up a good one hundred eleven blogs. It was always a terrible pain in the ass coming up to those bi-monthly deadlines, ultra-aware that I needed to be witty or insightful or topical or instructive and that what I said had to matter, had to mean something to someone other than myself. There was incredible pressure to perform and, although I absolutely loved my time blogging at Murderati, loved the authors and the readers and the tremendous impact we had, when Muderati took its leave I held my breath and thought, “Well, now I can relax.” And maybe I could even get some writing done, too.
But it wasn’t like I suddenly had the opportunity to relax. Life went on and other responsibilities filled that space. I accepted the challenge of being a judge for both the Edgar Awards and the ITW Thriller Awards during the same year. With over six hundred books to read over a five-month period, there wasn’t enough time to write, much less blog.
When the competitions were done I found other priorities to fill my time. I was unemployed and then I was employed again, having found a challenging new day job managing national sales for a lighting company. There went my days and many of my nights. Then I decided to get my MFA in Creative Writing from Tod Goldberg’s program at UC Riverside, something I wanted to do so that someday I could stop selling lights and just focus on writing and teaching. I accepted the extra work-load by rationalizing that my third novel was now my Masters Thesis. Now if I didn’t finish my novel I would feel the additional guilt of not graduating from college.
School has created additional demands on my time. I’ve got these terrible things called “critical essays” to write, like, all the fucking time, and now I have to take classes in poetry, non-fiction and screenwriting. The great thing is that all of my professors are my peers, they are exceptional authors and I see them every year at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, where we often share space on the festival’s many writing panels. In fact, I’m moderating a panel this year at the Festival of Books and Tod Goldberg is one of the panelists, promoting his latest novel, “Gangsterland.”
So, you get it. No time to blog.
But for the last year or so I’ve noticed this depression in my life. I’m using a very narrow definition of the word here. Depression as in “a hollow or sunken area.” A space where something that once existed no longer exists.
See, I kept thinking of things I wanted to express. Little observations or opinions about my life and the world around me. Things that had no place in the novel I’ve been writing. Things too expansive for the transience of a Facebook post. Things that, had I been blogging, I would have used as the topic for a blog.
This emptiness grew. I tried to wedge these observations into my poetry—hell, I had to do something to fulfill my UCR poetry requirement, right? It helped a little, but, then again, who’s going to see my poetry? Where’s the commentary, the dialectic, the community? I realized that nothing would replace the blog except the blog. The blog is a unique art form in and of itself. I didn’t realize how much I had come to depend on it to satisfy myself, my own internal needs, my depression. I realized that the blogs weren’t about marketing my books or publicizing my book events. They were about having a place to speak my mind. To observe and comment and to, hopefully, make some kind of impact.
I decided from the start to use the blog format as a way to track my conscious growth as an artist, as a writer, as a man making his way through this world, making decisions that would impact my life and the lives of my wife and children. My blogs often resembled travelogues into the world of publishing, my reaction to the ups and downs of things, my fears, excitements, successes and failures. The blog became the place where I could evaluate my progress through life and share them with a collection of like-minded individuals. Through blogging I became part of a community, really, for the first time in my life. Through blogging I met other writers—published and yet-to-be published—who felt as I did about living in a society that valued financial success over anything else. I discovered that I wasn’t alone. We all seem to look at the world a little askew, just enough to worry our families, friends and co-workers.
But, most important, the blogs relieve the depression and fill the hollow space. They give me a place to say the things that would otherwise be left unsaid. I need the blogs, now more than ever.
So it appears I have something to say. I’ve done a little looking around and I’ve determined that Algonquin Redux is the perfect place to share my thoughts. Thank you all for giving me a seat at the table. I’m looking forward to having great conversations, meeting new friends, and enjoying a virtual cocktail or two. Give me whatever Dorothy Parker is having.